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Narcissists do not come with a warning on their forehead. They do come with a deeply limited repertoire of behaviors and interaction styles that are not glaringly obvious, yet are present from the beginning.
When you get that feeling that it is too good to be true, IT IS. Normal/typical people with healthy boundaries are never as enticing, dramatic, interesting or as “easy” to develop a rapport with as narcissists. Healthy, normal people do not merge, mirror or create facades that leave an intense and instantaneous desire to spend more time with them very early on.
People with healthy boundaries do not dive head first and recklessly into new relationships. Healthy relationships seem to pale in the romantic comparison to the whirlwind, “love at first sight,” early days' exuberance we experience with a narcissist. The initial intensity we experience with a narcissist cannot be replicated with a healthy person, as healthy people have integrated egos and fully developed super-egos (conscience—the place where empathy comes from). Healthy people take things slowly, have personal boundaries, and seek to build a foundation. They have no hidden agenda to persuade you to fall for them, so they are not as extreme or alluring.
Healthy people are not desperately seeking targets or new sources of supply, therefore, they do not present with the urgency, intensity or overblown initial feelings of desire to connect. The narcissist's desire to connect is the fuel that feeds the love bombing. Love bombing is hard to resist, as it caters to our desire to be loved and to feel important. Love bombing is dangerous and the sign that we are aware of and most often choose to ignore.
You never truly connect with a narcissist, as their motivation for being in the relationship is not the same as the motivations of a healthy, fully-integrated, and developmentally normal person. You do not connect with a narcissist any more than you connect with a toaster oven, telephone pole or Kermit the Frog. It is not possible to make a connection with a person who lacks the human traits (empathy, integrated ego and much more). Empathy is the thread that weaves human interconnectedness. Without empathy, we are related to as objects. The narcissist aspires to own, control and conquer you. There is no empathy, no kindness involved.
The connection that you feel in the beginning is the love bombing they hurl at you in order to sign you onto the role of target. They are highly skilled at mirroring back to you the person that you wish for them to be. This is not hard for them. Since they have no actual person behind the persona/mask/show they present, they have a lifetime of experience in transforming themselves into whoever the target wishes for them to be. It’s a show, a parade, an illusion, a masquerade. All of those things, when it comes to matters of the heart, are more enticing than a typical, safe, healthy encounter with a new potential partner.
Behind this masquerade of perfection lies absolutely nothing. Do you want to be with a person who wears a mask of sanity, someone who wears a mask of a mirror and changes that mirror for each new person they embroil as a target? They have as much ability to be kind and caring to you as a Sesame Street Puppet, a toaster oven, telephone pole or the sofa. Would you get upset if Kermit the Frog called you names and discarded you?
In healthy relationships, two people connect and share the human experience of interdependence, love, compatibility and friendship. In a relationship with a narcissist… what relationship? Can you have a relationship with Kermit the Frog or another puppet or show?
In the beginning, their fanatical job of hiding their false self, combined with the distraction of mirroring their target, adds some good old- fashioned love bombing; they are not so easy to spot. The trick is to not become emotionally attached to the love bombing. If someone is catering to your human desire to connect, feel loved and providing you with extreme attention before it is logically the time to be doing that… no good can come of it.
Narcissists are primitive, and that makes them limited. They operate emotionally similarly to a three-to-five-year-old child. They are not hard to figure out, as they do the same things, and those things are based on their desire for supply, adoration and the need to control others. Here is a list of some of the common things that you will find.
1. There is often some long and complicated or confusing story (lie) about their current romantic status.
They have a girlfriend, but at the same time, they don’t, or they are in it for some reason that’s incoherent or it’s over but not over… you get the idea. There are many different versions of this same story.
Honorable men (the world is filled with them) do not "sort of" have a girlfriend or are otherwise involved with a woman who has no idea that they are on the prowl as they are out with you. Honorable men do not seek the company of women outside of whatever relationship they are already in. Men with integrity, confidence, empathy and who are decent do not seek new girlfriends when they already have some person in their life who they refer to as “girlfriend."
Tip: Get to know them better or worse, become their girlfriend and you will be the one who is oblivious to their antics when they are seated across from the next potential supply, explaining your relationship to them in a way that is mystifying, unsettling and degrading to you and the relationship you think you have with them.
2. In the "getting to know you" stage, they will ask many direct questions about your romantic past and present, yet when it’s your turn to learn about them, you will quickly find that they provide no timeline or coherent history of their dating past.
In part, this is due to the fact that narcissists run with harems and hang onto sources of supply for as long as they are able to, weaving in and out of their lives as it suits them. Therefore, with boundaries this blurred, even they may not have a handle on the timeline. At the same time that they actively dodge simple questions providing you with no actual information, they will expect and potentially demand to know the details of your dating past. Be careful. Giving them names in the beginning sets them up for calling your exes and enlisting them in smear campaigns later… not that it matters, as normal people do not operate like this and smear campaigns are a distinct and bizarre characteristic of narcissists. Normal people do not call your contacts with questions, information or other ruminations about you; it’s not how the world works, and it makes them look insane and reveals who they are. They truly do not know how the world works and are easy to spot, as they all do the same weirdo stuff that healthy people just would not even consider doing.
Honorable men who are integrated and whole are capable and willing to answer questions about their past and will do so without lying, omission or bizarre zig-zagging of the entire topic. Neurotypical men are not as interested in your dating past. Unlike narcissists, their relationships end with appropriate closure, therefore, they do not fear that you are secretly dating everyone you ever dated, potentially all at the same time, as that thought is not inherent in their behavior as it is with a narcissist who has closure with no one and strives to control and dominate as many sources of supply as possible. A narcissist doesn’t let something standard like an agreement to be monogamous, marriage or children interfere in their self-centered and primitive behavior that is also unsafe, disgusting and reprehensible.
3. Often they will disclose something undesirable about themselves that is surprising or shocking.
They do this to test or feel out whether or not you are open to unusual, uncommon, or outright horrendous behavior. If they tell you they have a history of problems with the law, incarceration, fighting, crazy or psycho ex-girlfriends, or brag about being a social chameleon and having family members with these same issues, this is warning sign and not something that is secondary to how cute, charismatic, funny or engaging they are. Any admission of having undergone psychiatric testing, being diagnosed as character disordered, incarceration, or ex-girlfriends referred to as psycho all negate how charming, attractive, funny or engaging they present. It is time to walk away and not look back when they admit to antisocial behavior. There is nothing funny about being above the law. Furthermore, sharing this type of information early on indicates poor judgement and the logical reasoning skills of a child under kindergarten age.
4. Love bombing
Love bombing, or the flattery, attention, gifts, focus or pedestal they put you on in the beginning of the relationship, will be extremely short-lived if you refuse to participate. There are misconceptions about love bombing. It’s not possible if you refuse to participate. When they are bombarding you with texts about how wonderful you are, watch how quickly they end or take a strange twist if you interrupt them with some topic of seriousness or otherwise shift the communication from a flattery fest into something more serious. The love bombing will stop dead in its tracks if you interrupt it by introducing some other topic or ask them why it is that they find you as desirable as they do. THEY HAVE NO REASON aside from striving to embroil you in their agenda in which you are the target and you give supply. They pull you into the game only to devalue you and discard you once they are certain they can repeat the same cycle.
When they are love bombing you, ask them why they feel the way they do. If you are honest with yourself and mildly insightful, that will put and end to the flattery and attention you are receiving. When asked why they feel the way they do, they are unable to answer the question and will shift the topic, make up a bizarre answer or otherwise reveal right then and there that there is no logical explanation for it.
They feel nothing toward you. They only feel excitement at having a new supply, someone to give them relevance and someone to control. This is because they do not have empathy, the trait that enables us to successfully navigate all social interactions and the prerequisite for having a moral compass, accountability and ability to connect with other people in a way that is meaningful. This contrasts the narcissistic way, which is to use people for their own agenda and to use you for personal gain. People are interchangeable to a narcissist. They may favor some sources of supply over others, however, they do not attach in the way that healthy adults attach, and they can easily discard a person they have previously declared to have loved tremendously without feeling anything at all.
They therefore do not need to learn about or experience your positive attributes, as the only ones that matter to them are the ones that are directly helpful to them. They cannot exactly tell you that they find you admirable because you hoist their social status, give them credibility or seem vulnerable and easy to control. When asked why they feel the way they do, they will toss you some flowery adjectives that make very little sense, as they don’t know you well and never will. They are not capable of recognizing you as anything more than an extension of them. Therefore, they will answer the question awkwardly then quickly jump back onto the flattery. After asking them to elaborate, the love bombing will feel shallow and empty.
5. Their words are not backed up with actions.
When they are future-faking and claiming they hope to marry you, intending to do many things with you in the future, and pontificating about the life you will have together in several years, it feels choppy and false. Pay attention to your feelings. Your intuition won't lie to you. As hard as it is to accept your intuition, it is urgent to do so.
For example, they do not introduce you to their significant people, family or request to meet yours. At the same time that they are claiming they wish to have a future with you, nothing in their behavior progresses to the stages of intimacy that you experience with a normal person. They are secretive and deceptive yet demand that you be upfront and disclose information about yourself. For instance, they may request to know your whereabouts but never share theirs. They may set up a dynamic in which they disclose nothing to you so that you ask nothing of them. In a normal relationship, when people are close enough to be intimate, they are also close enough to share their whereabouts. It’s absolutely illogical to be having sex with someone who you think is your soulmate but at the same time are not close enough to know what they did the night before. There is no room for secrecy and deception in love. Love is sharing and integrity; it is strong and kind. It is not deceptive, confusing, weary or omitting details.
A narcissist is filled with the words that you want to hear, however, those words do not represent their actions. If you want to know how someone feels about you or how much they value you, do not listen to their words and simply watch their actions, and you will quickly see exactly where you stand with them. A narcissist's words and actions do not match.
6. They push your boundaries.
Narcissists do not like sharing or competition. They are often quick to create situations or structure in the relationship that no normal person would create, and they don’t care whether you want to subscribe to their choice/dictation or not. They are quick to set up rules, terms, and conditions and do not allow for a natural progression of friendship and love. In quickly asserting that they are your soulmate or that you are the best thing that has ever happened to them, it is too easy to be drawn into their trap of you being loyal, available and eventually a possession of theirs which later leads to isolation, as they will seek to consume your time, thoughts, and focus. This disables you from interaction, focusing attention on other people, and more importantly, it sets up the stage for their reactions towards you becoming too important to you.
When they shift out of love bombing and onto devaluing you, it is only possible because they have gotten you into a situation in which you are isolated from your people and yourself and are overly dependent/influenced by their view of you. By drawing you in with love bombing and promptly asserting themselves as the most important influence/person in your life, they are setting you up to fall apart when they begin the stage of devaluing you, as you have relied too heavily on their perceptions of you and have grown accustomed to and are reliant on their unyielding attention, focus and adoration. They later rip this away from you as you enter into the stage of “devalue" which precedes the “discard” stage. It doesn’t end there. After discarding you, they come back around and start up the whole cycle again. This gets played out in many different ways and is not always obvious to even mental health professionals. It is obvious to people who study and research character disorders and domestic violence specialists.
7. No foundation is built.
In normal healthy relationships, a foundation of trust, friendship, loyalty, honesty and respect is developed over time. There is no shortcut to building the foundations of a healthy relationship, and anyone who tries to persuade you into shortcuts has an agenda that is absolutely not in your best interest. Narcissists do not have the skillset to have healthy relationships, and therefore, they jump right into what they can do: pull you into participating in their own agenda. Their agenda is to get supply from you, as that is what holds together the glue of their mask and fuels their false self. They cannot exist without approval from others, as they have no internal mechanism to self-regulate or create positive self-esteem, which is understandable as there is no true self.
If you feel scared or worried about leaving them early on, remember they are as realistic and as complete as Big Bird, and you are not afraid of Big Bird. Unlike Big Bird the longer that you are exposed to them, the more damage they can do, so the sooner you get out, preferably before sharing too much with them, as any information you give them is used to later harm you, the better.
Always be true to yourself. We all want to love and to be loved. This is normal and positive and makes the world a happier place. By understanding your own desires and being able to tolerate the disappointment of potentially being duped early on, you avoid the absolute bedlam these characters create later on and save yourself the chaos of being terrorized, stalked, harassed and subjected to smear campaigns, financial demise, and tedious litigation later on down the line. It is much easier to avoid falling prey to a narcissist in the initial stages so you can heal and manage your disappointment more easily and recover quickly. Letting in a narcissist is a guarantee of discomfort at best, but sadly, more likely the demise of your physical and emotional health years later after emotional torture and having been terrorized and isolated. Please be careful and cautious, follow your instincts and remember that you are a gift. Any person who tells you that you are a gift should be able to tell you exactly why, and if they can’t, it’s because they are not seeing you as the gift that you are, but instead, they have an agenda to use you as a source of supply to fill the never-ending void that is their life.